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Biết ta đích thực là ai – Cuốn sách về một cấm kỵ – có lẽ là một trong những tác phẩm nổi tiếng và có ảnh hưởng nhất của học giả, triết gia Alan Watts. Trong đó, tác giả nghiền ngẫm về một cấm kỵ không được thừa nhận, nhưng đầy sức mạnh: sự thông đồng im lặng của chúng ta về câu hỏi ta thực sự là ai, hoặc là cái gì. Nỗ lực này là đi tìm lời đáp cho câu hỏi: Nếu cảm thức củ Biết ta đích thực là ai – Cuốn sách về một cấm kỵ – có lẽ là một trong những tác phẩm nổi tiếng và có ảnh hưởng nhất của học giả, triết gia Alan Watts. Trong đó, tác giả nghiền ngẫm về một cấm kỵ không được thừa nhận, nhưng đầy sức mạnh: sự thông đồng im lặng của chúng ta về câu hỏi ta thực sự là ai, hoặc là cái gì. Nỗ lực này là đi tìm lời đáp cho câu hỏi: Nếu cảm thức của chúng ta về mình dưới dạng ngã biệt lập trong chiếc bao da là ảo tưởng, không phù hợp cả với những khám phá của khoa học phương Tây lẫn với triết giáo phương Đông, vậy thì bản tính đích thực của chúng ta là gì? Đưa người đọc chìm đắm vào bầu không khí chiêm nghiệm triết học và tìm ra trong các triết thuyết cổ xưa những điểm nhìn cách mạng và hiện đại, Alan Watts đã trình bày con đường nhận thức mang tính tâm lý học của riêng ông về chân tướng của cái cảm thức mơ hồ gọi là tôi, mà trên thực tế chính là cội nguồn và căn gốc của Vũ trụ.


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Biết ta đích thực là ai – Cuốn sách về một cấm kỵ – có lẽ là một trong những tác phẩm nổi tiếng và có ảnh hưởng nhất của học giả, triết gia Alan Watts. Trong đó, tác giả nghiền ngẫm về một cấm kỵ không được thừa nhận, nhưng đầy sức mạnh: sự thông đồng im lặng của chúng ta về câu hỏi ta thực sự là ai, hoặc là cái gì. Nỗ lực này là đi tìm lời đáp cho câu hỏi: Nếu cảm thức củ Biết ta đích thực là ai – Cuốn sách về một cấm kỵ – có lẽ là một trong những tác phẩm nổi tiếng và có ảnh hưởng nhất của học giả, triết gia Alan Watts. Trong đó, tác giả nghiền ngẫm về một cấm kỵ không được thừa nhận, nhưng đầy sức mạnh: sự thông đồng im lặng của chúng ta về câu hỏi ta thực sự là ai, hoặc là cái gì. Nỗ lực này là đi tìm lời đáp cho câu hỏi: Nếu cảm thức của chúng ta về mình dưới dạng ngã biệt lập trong chiếc bao da là ảo tưởng, không phù hợp cả với những khám phá của khoa học phương Tây lẫn với triết giáo phương Đông, vậy thì bản tính đích thực của chúng ta là gì? Đưa người đọc chìm đắm vào bầu không khí chiêm nghiệm triết học và tìm ra trong các triết thuyết cổ xưa những điểm nhìn cách mạng và hiện đại, Alan Watts đã trình bày con đường nhận thức mang tính tâm lý học của riêng ông về chân tướng của cái cảm thức mơ hồ gọi là tôi, mà trên thực tế chính là cội nguồn và căn gốc của Vũ trụ.

30 review for The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    Do you sometimes get the feeling that there is an unwritten taboo written all across the faces of the faceless crowd around you? That they're all walking on EGGSHELLS? If you've ever thought that, says Alan Watts, you're right! I certainly thought that as a kid. Society wouldn’t let me be who I was. I was zany and irrepressible, and they would let me have NONE of that! It's the taboo against knowing who you REALLY are. It's the "unbearable lightness of being." The impossibility of getting any real Do you sometimes get the feeling that there is an unwritten taboo written all across the faces of the faceless crowd around you? That they're all walking on EGGSHELLS? If you've ever thought that, says Alan Watts, you're right! I certainly thought that as a kid. Society wouldn’t let me be who I was. I was zany and irrepressible, and they would let me have NONE of that! It's the taboo against knowing who you REALLY are. It's the "unbearable lightness of being." The impossibility of getting any real answers. The immense difficulty in getting to the ‘bottom’ of yourself. Or even finding a secure foundation for an endless stream of very random thoughts. Watts progresses, after this book, with the concept of groundlessness in The Wisdom of Insecurity, and that’s an audiobook I’m now listening to. But that one, unfortunately, rather obviates any underlying reason for our life by negating God’s existence at the outset. If you want to find Order in Chaos, why would you block your emergency exits? But now you know about groundlessness. But guess what - you're not alone. We ALL have that problem. So what in the world do we do? Simple, says Watts - we need to see the Big Picture and our place within it. Then we can start to find Ourselves. Okay... but will that really SATISFY us? Be forewarned. The first part - seeing the big picture - is easy. It's the second part that's excruciatingly difficult - because we're still weightless, as he says. Groundless. And lost in space. That first part is what the eminent Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain called, "the intuition of Being," and it happens to nearly all of us. It happened to me when I was 20 - a feeling of the utter Vastness of the universe, swiftly followed by a vision of my own littleness and vulnerability! So is THAT the taboo? Nope, Watts says - but you're getting the idea. The taboo is the one against constructing an authentic YOU - and this is the second part... An Authentic You that is acutely, and with a sense of perfect pitch in tune - not ONLY with the Fun of Life (for that’s easy nowadays) - but in tune Sympathetically with the great Tragedies of Life, and SEEING THE REASONS for their existence. An Authentic You that is in perfect tune with ANY place in existence that Fate happens to put you! An Authentic You that finally feels the solid ground beneath its feet again - on the day it sees its familiar and cozy world is in fact BRUTALLY DISHONEST. An Authentically Human You. It’s tough to find it. They all want to turn you outwards. Society bluntly discourages inwardness. It’s a world of fast food, fast fulfillments - and avoiding Pain (even though pain and disappointment are two of the greatest teachers)! Think of fads, peer pressure, endlessly distracting breaking news releases, keeping up with the Joneses, inane pop-up ads, family demands... the list is endless! And you know, there's gonna be all heck to pay if you're DIFFERENT. Tunnel vision is the Name of the Game. And Attention. But there are always gonna be ones who think they’re above you in their rather earthy pursuit of questionable possessions & peccadilloes! But this delightful and very readable book is a good place to start being Different from that. But Only that - a start. Finding yourself is the toughest thing you can ever do. If you start, and don’t finish the job, it will always bounce back on you, because more powerful people than you WANT to leave your questions unanswered. If you don’t finish it, it can finish YOU. But knowing you DO have a real self can always get you on your feet again. All it takes is that SUDDEN GLIMPSE, of a buried, Real YOU. And that’s called Grace. It’s who we truly are. It’s Jung’s mystical Self. It’s our very own Holy Grail. But - don't try to go about finding it just like Watts, or be different for the sake of being different and trying to be proud of that. It just won’t work. Guaranteed. Just BE YOURSELF (and good luck to you)! And - so you’re off and running - on the most Ancient Quest of them all. ‘Till the wind shakes a thousand whispers from the Yew....’ Pun intended! For you will be shaken, there’s no doubt - But the Real You is also the Gateway to the Peace of Completion - and Unassailable Self Knowledge.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    What a powerful little book. Watts has a gift for explaining Eastern thought and metaphysics to a western audience. Some of the statements in this book will change the way you look at the world in an instant. The day I finished reading this I spent two hours wandering around Seattle staring at trees and buildings and everything else under the sun. Things felt new and interesting for a little while. This book also has lots of interesting (and sometimes very humorous) commentary on western society What a powerful little book. Watts has a gift for explaining Eastern thought and metaphysics to a western audience. Some of the statements in this book will change the way you look at the world in an instant. The day I finished reading this I spent two hours wandering around Seattle staring at trees and buildings and everything else under the sun. Things felt new and interesting for a little while. This book also has lots of interesting (and sometimes very humorous) commentary on western society and the concept of the ego. Truly some food for thought.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Having read this and several other works by Watts while still in high school, I am unsure of a proper rating. At the time he was very influential, but then I knew so little and was so very unhappy. Mother introduced me to Watts and, thus, Eastern philosophies. Actually, they were covered a bit in Freshman Civilization class taught by Kelly Fox and that was intriguing, but Watts was the first actual believer I may have read. Later, not much later, Mike Miley was to introduce me to the real stuff, Having read this and several other works by Watts while still in high school, I am unsure of a proper rating. At the time he was very influential, but then I knew so little and was so very unhappy. Mother introduced me to Watts and, thus, Eastern philosophies. Actually, they were covered a bit in Freshman Civilization class taught by Kelly Fox and that was intriguing, but Watts was the first actual believer I may have read. Later, not much later, Mike Miley was to introduce me to the real stuff, Sri Aurobindo and the lot, but Mom and Alan Watts got me going. She was probably pretty unhappy too though I didn't know it until word got to me in college that she'd left Dad. Mom and Dad. I often describe Dad as a modern Voltaire, a skeptic, and Mom as one who took literally Paul's injunction to "believe all things." She was Norwegian, a member of the Lutheran Church of Norway, but when her friend the priest would visit we'd have a Catholic Mass sans Dad. When my friends got into talking about Vedanta or Zen or Taoism, she'd eat it up, just as she came to eat up, to my shock, orange double domes. I respected Dad. I thought Mom a bit of a flake. Yet everyone liked Mom, only a select few got close to Dad. Her heart was an expansive one. Watts describes his book as an attack against the notion that we are individual egos in bodies. I have come to accept this position for various reasons. Among them are: -I have memories of being all sorts of creatures. The Erik body and minor variations on that theme are most common, but I wake up every day with the memories of variant Eriks and many others. Some of these others come up time and again in dreams. To these types of memories may be added those of day-dreaming or of other altered states of consciousness. Once, for maybe half an hour, I was a dark-haired Amerindian girl. Since the experience began in the shower, that is a particularly vivid and cherished memory. -Despite these bodily-associated memories, I actually spend most times unaware of the Erik body or of anything associated with it. For instance, when reading, if it's a good book, I'm right there in it. Being aware of the Erik body is often not a good thing. It often means something is wrong. -Other than inferred references to the Erik body and its sense organs and point of reference, my actual experiences are about common things, be they material or ideational. I have no secrets, no private life which isn't predefined by common, public objects. I think, I imagine in terms which either are the lingua franca of everyone or which might easily become so. -I certainly don't have an individual ego. That, upon analysis, is a vanishing point on the horizon, a heurism, a convenience of reference to this Erik body and its habits of behavior. This body certainly isn't individual, but composite, a supercommunity of communities of cells, constantly changing. -The notion of individuality and the weight given it is both culturally and historically contingent. This seems confirmed again and again by my occasional studies in history, anthropology and psychology. The agents in the bible, particularly the Hebrew Bible, are often families, clans and nations, not particular human bodies. Still, despite this considered conviction, I too often fall back into the miserable sense of being precisely that which Watts decries--"a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin"--especially when things aren't going smoothly. Thus, when people ask, usually thoughtlessly, "How are you?", I, brought by them to self-consciousness, often reply "Depraved". This, my fallenness, is quite irksome.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tim Burrington

    Wow, what do I say about this book. I read this based on the numerous, quite intelligent, quotes that can be found on the Internet attributed to Mr. Watts. Reading this book was a very different experience though. To be sure, there are some grains of wisdom, but they are to be found among tons of chaff. With the flowing and unfocused nature of this book I could only picture a stoned hippy unloading a stream of consciousness while reading it. In the end Watts takes a full book to state the obvio Wow, what do I say about this book. I read this based on the numerous, quite intelligent, quotes that can be found on the Internet attributed to Mr. Watts. Reading this book was a very different experience though. To be sure, there are some grains of wisdom, but they are to be found among tons of chaff. With the flowing and unfocused nature of this book I could only picture a stoned hippy unloading a stream of consciousness while reading it. In the end Watts takes a full book to state the obvious; opposites can't exist without each other and everything in the universe is connected. He pulls from this understanding that an individual doesn't really exist and that you are connected to everything around you. He ignores a few key aspects though, such as 'self preservation'. If a dog is biting my shin, I'm immediately aware of my individuality and my need to protect it lest I cease to exist. While he starts the book by stating that he will pass this bit of wisdom, what he gives you is "neither for living better nor for reasoning more fitly [Cicero]". If an author makes the claim that their writing can improve my life in some way, they must give me something that I can apply in every day life. This is not the case here. My recommendation is to stick to the inspiration derived from quotes you can find from Watts and avoid the useless context of the books they are found in. You will have time left over to read some truly useful works.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Watts says humans are connected to everything around us so that we and the universe are one. The goal of Eastern thought is to tap into that oceanic feeling and love and harmony will result. This perspective he contrasts with Western thought, which is atomistic and ego-based, leading to competition, domination and conflict. Watts has an interesting writing style. Points and themes fade in and out, like a smooth power point, and he takes the reader along for an almost mesmerizing ride until one t Watts says humans are connected to everything around us so that we and the universe are one. The goal of Eastern thought is to tap into that oceanic feeling and love and harmony will result. This perspective he contrasts with Western thought, which is atomistic and ego-based, leading to competition, domination and conflict. Watts has an interesting writing style. Points and themes fade in and out, like a smooth power point, and he takes the reader along for an almost mesmerizing ride until one thinks about what is being said. Watts uses the biological cell as an anology for our openess to the world, but doesn't say that that openess is selective (it's not "oceanic"), it is strife-ridden (in service of survival), and it is defensive against harm. Elsewhere, he acknowledges the obvious. Conflicts are there after all, but he writes that they are "within bounds" for those who are enlightened because our interdependence is recognized. Watts refers to quantum physics and relativity as if these support his viewpoint. Just as mass is energy, he says that "this relativity, or interpendence, of the two is as close to a metaphysical unity underlying differences as anyone could wish." Yes, and we might suppose that the cosmos is absent of tension between matter and energy and that exploding stars and galaxies are not violent. For those who ask hard questions about his perspective, Watts says that truth is beyond understanding. Questions are off limits, and "no one should use speaking and thinking to find out what cannot be spoken or thought." To bolster that perspective, Watts states that "As Wittgenstein suggested, people who ask such questions may have a disorder of the intellect...." That strikes me as taking some liberties with (the early) Wittgenstein's view of "nonsense." Watts is asserting a truth that Wittgenstein could or would not assert. Watts of course knows that we die and is careful to not suggest we live physically in a heaven. Yet, he brings eternity back by saying that "I return in every baby born." Well, we know that our children live on with pieces of us, but Watts is not talking about genes. He is referring to our selves as an "It" that "will rise again and again, as the 'central' Self," so there is hope after all. The separate ego has no place in Watts' theory. The ego is to be equated with domination of others. That is not accurate. As biological beings, we are egocentric, wanting to survive and enjoy well-being. But a good part of human kind also identifies with the broader community and that identity includes compassion, love, empathy and all of that, as the good of the whole is good for the self. An argument could be made that it is Watts' perspective that is egocentric. While world is filled with real suffering that demands active engagement, Watts wants us to retreat into a quiet corner so we can find ourselves.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jack Waters

    Alan Watts does a fine job of breaking through the narcissistic wall that many of us build around ourselves, as if we have a superior, godlike ability to access a vantage point that sees a world around us, apart from us, rather than us of it, fully immersed within the Whole Everything of All Things. Sure, it is totally the book you love as a freshman college student, trying to disavow your WASPy upbringing by incorporating Easternized Western Thought rather than good ol' fashioned Westernized Wes Alan Watts does a fine job of breaking through the narcissistic wall that many of us build around ourselves, as if we have a superior, godlike ability to access a vantage point that sees a world around us, apart from us, rather than us of it, fully immersed within the Whole Everything of All Things. Sure, it is totally the book you love as a freshman college student, trying to disavow your WASPy upbringing by incorporating Easternized Western Thought rather than good ol' fashioned Westernized Western Thought. And sure, it is the book to read before a weekend camping Trip with friends so that you can have that Highly enjoyable campfire discussion about Nothing and Identity and Patriarchy and Being and Event... You know what I am talking about: "It's like, man, you know, we are all just totally sort of like the various colors of Fruity Pebbles in a bowl -- sure we are individual, but we are all One, in that cosmic Milk, bound by Bowl, crunchy, then soft, then edible, then digested..." The book doesn't read like that, it is more like: "The political and personal morality of the West, especially in the United States, is –for lack of this sense– utterly schizophrenic. It is a monstrous combination of uncompromising idealism and unscrupulous gangsterism, and thus devoid of the humor and humaneness which enables confessed rascals to sit down together and work out reasonable deals." It's a book from which you can gain what you'll allow yourself to gain. If you want to read it ironically, to merely pick it apart in attempt to bully your granola-munching homies, then it is for you. If you find yourself unable to escape that mirror, that Self so wholly consuming, then this book can be a good companion in your quest to rid yourself of Yourself. If you want to find ways for you to be more fully awake in your day-to-day existence, this is your book. It is The Book, after all.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Duffy

    This is one of those books that goes deep into the essence of the PERSONAL EGO. The way we look at the world and why we look at it with squinting eyes. This book literally opened up my mind to some new thoughts and at solidified some of my own ideas that I had been dwelling on for years. Its funny at times. But, Read it with no distractions around. Its only enjoyable if you can literally digest what the man is saying. Youll never look at the world the same once youve read this book, and I mean th This is one of those books that goes deep into the essence of the PERSONAL EGO. The way we look at the world and why we look at it with squinting eyes. This book literally opened up my mind to some new thoughts and at solidified some of my own ideas that I had been dwelling on for years. Its funny at times. But, Read it with no distractions around. Its only enjoyable if you can literally digest what the man is saying. Youll never look at the world the same once youve read this book, and I mean that in a good way. EXTREMELY POSITIVE!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hershey Propp

    I certainly don't agree with him on everything, but this book is life changing. I mostly took off a s tar because he tends to be hypocritical at times - he criticizes superiority complexes but clearly has one, and talks about politics in ways he criticizes people for doing so. I certainly don't agree with him on everything, but this book is life changing. I mostly took off a s tar because he tends to be hypocritical at times - he criticizes superiority complexes but clearly has one, and talks about politics in ways he criticizes people for doing so.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bria

    I seem to have this problem where I keep reading books where I pretty much agree with what the author is saying, except that somehow I find it irritating the way they say it. I'm turned off by the parts where Watts turns to the same old complaints about how the world is deteriorating compared to our previous or natural way of being. The wide stereotyped pictures painted are quite tiresome, even though I know he's trying to illustrate the general way of things to make his point and not necessaril I seem to have this problem where I keep reading books where I pretty much agree with what the author is saying, except that somehow I find it irritating the way they say it. I'm turned off by the parts where Watts turns to the same old complaints about how the world is deteriorating compared to our previous or natural way of being. The wide stereotyped pictures painted are quite tiresome, even though I know he's trying to illustrate the general way of things to make his point and not necessarily pinning anyone down as being just like that. And his style of word use I find much more irritating than poetic or whatever it's supposed to be. Still, for the most part, he's right.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I read this book while on a kayaking trip with my older brother on Kachemak Bay, Alaska and I have never, literally, been exactly the same. It pulls the veil back, as it were. You can read it over and over, but I think the best one is the first time through. It made my mind race with the possibilities that it opened up, created some serious dialogue with my brother, and it made the perfect Christmas present, that year, to my parents who absolutely NEED to read it (though I know they never have, I read this book while on a kayaking trip with my older brother on Kachemak Bay, Alaska and I have never, literally, been exactly the same. It pulls the veil back, as it were. You can read it over and over, but I think the best one is the first time through. It made my mind race with the possibilities that it opened up, created some serious dialogue with my brother, and it made the perfect Christmas present, that year, to my parents who absolutely NEED to read it (though I know they never have, and they probably never will...)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Chester

    The core of his argument is that Western society is plagued with an overabundance of ego. Which is not to say that we are overly full of ourselves (OK, that is kind of what it says), but that our confusion, frustration with life, and overall isolation from one another stems from this cultural meme that the individual exists wholly separate from everything else. Watts finds the Hindu/Buddhist notion of a "ground of being" in place of God to be helpful in dispelling this notion of ego. If we accept The core of his argument is that Western society is plagued with an overabundance of ego. Which is not to say that we are overly full of ourselves (OK, that is kind of what it says), but that our confusion, frustration with life, and overall isolation from one another stems from this cultural meme that the individual exists wholly separate from everything else. Watts finds the Hindu/Buddhist notion of a "ground of being" in place of God to be helpful in dispelling this notion of ego. If we accept that we are essentially a part of the bigger picture, both physically, molecularly, biologically, cosmologically, etc., then it's easier to come to terms with life, death, and other people. The ideas are nothing new, but I enjoyed his metaphors and the way he explained things allegorically. I think I gained a better mental grasp on the notion that, as the great Bill Hicks once said, 'We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively.'

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Roy

    I find reprehensible the affection of Goodreads reviewers for animated GIFs, but this book begs for an exception. So here goes: The central idea in this book is expressed in the title. Alan Watts argues that the Self is an illusion, and does so in an eloquent, playful manner. Most of the book focuses on helping the reader intuit this concept, rather than trying to convince them in a formal, logical manner. It's a nice change of pace from Spinoza's itemized logical constructs, for instance, and al I find reprehensible the affection of Goodreads reviewers for animated GIFs, but this book begs for an exception. So here goes: The central idea in this book is expressed in the title. Alan Watts argues that the Self is an illusion, and does so in an eloquent, playful manner. Most of the book focuses on helping the reader intuit this concept, rather than trying to convince them in a formal, logical manner. It's a nice change of pace from Spinoza's itemized logical constructs, for instance, and although it feels less like mental gymnastics, it's actually more effective. The book does ramble a bit, and some of the arguments are fast and loose. It's not always clear whether Mr. Watts is using sarcasm or cutting a corner. But heck, listen: read this. It changed the way I look at life. It made me gasp in shock and delight. It's that good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Urges

    Some really great concepts are discussed in this book making you look at life and existence in new ways. But my eyes glazed over after a few chapters. An updated version of this text would probably go far.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    What if there were One Book, which gave the low-down on all the Big Questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? What is the Universe? How was it created? No, I'm not talking about the Bible. That doesn't really answer those questions in a way that is palatable to the modern, scientific, skeptical thinker. Alan Watts wondered what such a book would be like, and in so doing, he ends up writing it. At least I think he did. The first time I read it, it put an abrupt end to all of my ph What if there were One Book, which gave the low-down on all the Big Questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? What is the Universe? How was it created? No, I'm not talking about the Bible. That doesn't really answer those questions in a way that is palatable to the modern, scientific, skeptical thinker. Alan Watts wondered what such a book would be like, and in so doing, he ends up writing it. At least I think he did. The first time I read it, it put an abrupt end to all of my philosophical confusions. I've read it a few times since then, each time with more knowledge and understanding of the subject, and it never ceases to be a mindfuck. Borrowing from Eastern philosophy, particularly Taoism and Vedanta, he answers these Big Questions, effortlessly breezing through paradoxes and circular logic in a humorous way that is very easy to read. He seamlessly integrates modern science into his philosophical musings without resorting to pseudoscience, and without sounding dated, which is amazing for a book written in 1967.

  15. 4 out of 5

    DaveD

    With a nice heady sativa, I think I would have enjoyed this book more. This book is like the four hour conversation that you had one night with your stoner buddy Doug back in college about life the universe and everything. There were a lot of interesting nugs of thought dropped on you, but at times your mind wandered away and then came back at a totally different place. You are IT man! Recommended bookshelf: Things to read when stoned.

  16. 5 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    The patter and diction are a little dated but this is generally a lucid and enjoyable explication of the perennial philosophy via Vedanta. Funnily enough it ends up sounding a lot like Heraclitus on the unity of opposites and Hegel on substance-as-subject and the journey to absolute knowing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    This is a somewhat shallow book with nothing original. The main themes are along the lines that there is no ego and we are part of the world and the world is us, and that mindfulness and contemplation is good. For the first theme, Hegel had said the same thing 150 years earlier and with a firmer foundation than this trivial little book, and who among us doesn’t like mindfulness and contemplation? Within this book ‘the ultimate foundation of being’ is Watts’ surrogate for the Supreme Being, God. I This is a somewhat shallow book with nothing original. The main themes are along the lines that there is no ego and we are part of the world and the world is us, and that mindfulness and contemplation is good. For the first theme, Hegel had said the same thing 150 years earlier and with a firmer foundation than this trivial little book, and who among us doesn’t like mindfulness and contemplation? Within this book ‘the ultimate foundation of being’ is Watts’ surrogate for the Supreme Being, God. I’m always leery of someone who defines God such that it is not necessarily deserving of worship (can’t he at least give a definition of God deserving of my worship?). The author wants to get at ‘nothing’ as not existing and our knowledge needs an ‘Other’ for us to be aware of ourselves. For him, there are no things as such there’s just ‘the one’, the universe. Just think of Parmenides and Plotinus, though the author doesn’t mention them, but Eastern thought tends to overlap with them (Plotinus almost certainly had visited India) and Watts definitely appeals to Eastern thought. For those who have read Plotinus this book is frightfully familiar (and/or for those who have read Plato). Watts will say ‘cause and effect’ are not always separable but Bertrand Russell had previously said that ‘cause and effect are just labels we use to help us with science’. By the way, I did love the author’s quote from William Blake, ‘the fool who persists in his folly becomes wise’, a good quote, and the author used it appropriately in his narrative. For the most part, I didn’t tend to disagree with the author. I just found him very shallow overall and lacking in originality. He seemed to be okay with drugs for finding mindfulness except for the fact that it would lead to an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ (he actually says ‘in group’ and ‘out group’ instead of ‘us’ or ‘them’). Along that same line, he wanted us to be more tolerant against those who ‘detest and abominate Negroes, communists, Russians, Chinese, Jews, Catholics, beatniks, homosexuals, and "dope-fiends."‘ I’m glad we did not listen to his advice at least in regards to ‘Negroes, Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals’. Sometimes it is perfectly okay to be intolerant of intolerance and if we make it ‘us’ against ‘them’ so be it. There’s a myth that the other side wants rational debate regarding who they hate. No, the intolerant just want to hate because it makes them feel superior and their hate can be channeled by corrupt leaders such as Donald Trump. Equality in marriage did not happen by friendly persuasion, bakers still refuse to sell to people they believe are going to hell forever and a day because of the way they were born, and county clerks refuse to issue licenses because they claim God told them not to. Aristotle said that after the mundane is taken care of contemplation of the divine is our highest virtue. St. Thomas Aquinas would say that our ultimate Good is the contemplation of the divine too, and Spinoza does too. Watts definitely advocated contemplation and seemed to like Aquinas, but I think he only mentioned Spinoza within a quote from Erwin Schrodinger and that was regarding Spinoza’s pantheism. As for me, mindfulness and the appreciation of the now sound good in theory, but in practice is wanting since I’m mostly elsewhere in my own mind (or, the thing that I labeled my own mind, because I tend to agree with Hegel and Watts that the ego of a self is a myth or at most a label we use for convenience). He knows that we are thrown into a world and the world makes us and he wants us to question that. The author doesn’t quote Heidegger and there really seemed to be a lot of post ‘Being and Time’ Heidegger within this author. Most people probably won’t get that allusion, so I will elaborate. Heidegger hates how technology is separating us from ourselves and this author definitely has that floating around within his story, and Heidegger has a ‘spiritualism’ of sorts and this author seemed to have that too. The author said in this book that we are told to go to first grade then junior high then high school and then get a job and then we can find our meaning at the end, but never really do, and that we shouldn’t just work for money and should do what we want to do. That to me sounds cool, but in the end it is stupid advice. My goal was to retire as fast as humanly possible and actualize myself fully in retirement. Work was one long series of compromises and getting out of dealing with other people was enough of an end in itself for me. In theory it sounds great to do what you love for ones job, but in practice most of us must balance our job/pleasure ratio in order to maximize our utility function and our values. I don’t disagree with the author’s overall thrust of this book. I just think the book was shallow and I had read most of it elsewhere in books written before 1965 as this book was.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Canesgalactica

    I think there is something to be said on the nature of 'dated philosophy'. While Watts makes some valid points in terms of the ego, the id and the ever present "I", I still think his philosophy is somewhat flawed. Not only that, but this book (perhaps the edition I have as it was an old library copy" suffers from somewhat antiquated analogies in publications and books that no one reads anymore.. or in fact even knows. I did appreciate that the book was an attempt to get the average person out of t I think there is something to be said on the nature of 'dated philosophy'. While Watts makes some valid points in terms of the ego, the id and the ever present "I", I still think his philosophy is somewhat flawed. Not only that, but this book (perhaps the edition I have as it was an old library copy" suffers from somewhat antiquated analogies in publications and books that no one reads anymore.. or in fact even knows. I did appreciate that the book was an attempt to get the average person out of their 'box' and to think of themselves as an ever-expanding piece of the universe.. or rather as the universe itself. However, I think he could have expanded further and honestly, most of this book is verbosity of the highest form.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    Another Eastern-Western fusion philosophy book, with the characteristic mixture of profundity and cruelty. No, let me be more clear: I get easily seduced into the ontology that shows the ego as a naughty trickster, and troubles the boundaries between bodies and worlds. But the moment all human suffering and evil is written off as illusion I start to get embarrassed for the author. A bold move for a white man to make in 1966. This isn't to say he's not right. What do I know? (Just as a heads up: Wa Another Eastern-Western fusion philosophy book, with the characteristic mixture of profundity and cruelty. No, let me be more clear: I get easily seduced into the ontology that shows the ego as a naughty trickster, and troubles the boundaries between bodies and worlds. But the moment all human suffering and evil is written off as illusion I start to get embarrassed for the author. A bold move for a white man to make in 1966. This isn't to say he's not right. What do I know? (Just as a heads up: Watts basically only uses male pronouns. Every time you see a female pronoun get prepared to cringe about 60s gender norms).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Potluck Mittal

    Wow. OK. This was a tough read, taking me about 6 months from when I picked it up, starting and finishing other books in the meantime. But it was also a rewarding read with unique insights into our interconnectedness, and how to live in the present, and even with a pretty compelling line of reasoning leading to reincarnation. Ultimately, though, I find it difficult to recommend this book. Upon finishing it, I went through it again in entirety to feel like I comprehended it better. I do expect I'l Wow. OK. This was a tough read, taking me about 6 months from when I picked it up, starting and finishing other books in the meantime. But it was also a rewarding read with unique insights into our interconnectedness, and how to live in the present, and even with a pretty compelling line of reasoning leading to reincarnation. Ultimately, though, I find it difficult to recommend this book. Upon finishing it, I went through it again in entirety to feel like I comprehended it better. I do expect I'll make passes of it again, because I agree with the vision, but another Goodreads review put it well: "An updated version of this text would probably go far." We do not "come into" this world, we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves", the universe "peoples". Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. The individual may be seen as one particular focal point at which the universe expresses itself - as an incarnation of IT What is this IT Watts refers to? self and other, subject and object, organism and environment, are the poles of a single process That is IT. Do you get it yet? Mostly me neither. I'm still processing. Letting the ideas roll around. But there's a fundamental truth here that resonates with flashes of inspiration I've had, aha moments, on LSD - that we are all one, that we are all connected. Watts spends a lot of time talking about our insistence that we are separate, that we are individual processes apart from the OTHER that is the rest of the universe, that is nothingness. In fact, he spends more time talking about this HOAX, this titular TABOO, than what the truth is, and what the point to life is in this new world. Which kinda makes sense, since the title of the book is about what he's trying to disprove... rather than being called The Book on Knowing Who You Are. Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now. I agree, Mr. Watts, I agree! But how *can* I be alive now? Life is at root playing. The vital thing is to consolidate your understanding, to become capable of enjoyment, of living in the present, and of the discipline which this involves. These were the closest I could find to recommendations, and though it would be ignoring some of Watts' other recommendations/observations to live hedonistically, he seems to come pretty close to giving such advice. Anyway, I'm not really sure I've represented Watts' ideas accurately at all (really I'd recommend going through at least one full page of quotes), so I'll round off this all-over-the-place review with the reincarnation logic that I mentioned I found compelling: Hitherto we have been taught that we are not really responsible for our brains. We do not know (in terms of words or figures) how they are constructed, and thus it seems that the brain and the organism as a whole are an ingenious vehicle which has been "given" to us... In other words, we accepted a definition of ourselves which confined the self to the source and to the limitations of conscious attention. This definition is miserably insufficient, for in fact we know how to grow brains and eyes, ears and fingers, hearts and bones, in just the same way that we know how to walk and breathe, talk and think--only we can't put it into words. Words are too slow and too clumsy for describing such things, and conscious attention is too narrow for keeping track of all their details. .. I presume, then, that with my own death I shall forget who I was, just as my conscious attention is unable to recall, if it ever knew, how to form the cells of the brain and the pattern of the veins. Conscious memory plays little part in our biological existence. Thus as my sensation of "I-ness", of being alive, once came into being without conscious memory or intent, so it will arise again and again... And if I forget how many times I have been here, and in how many shapes, this forgetting is the necessary interval of darkness between every pulsation of light. I return in every baby born.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    I came to Watts by reference from a more practical guide of meditation practice. As such, I was really more interested in an exploration of a personal experience of "not-self", or "anatta" as Buddhists refer to it. This may sound somewhat grand and perhaps quixotic, but I sincerely believe that grasping anatta on a more immediate, visceral level of awareness - beyond the conceptual - is really quite possible and achievable for most everyone. In an effort to move beyond the purely conceptual, the I came to Watts by reference from a more practical guide of meditation practice. As such, I was really more interested in an exploration of a personal experience of "not-self", or "anatta" as Buddhists refer to it. This may sound somewhat grand and perhaps quixotic, but I sincerely believe that grasping anatta on a more immediate, visceral level of awareness - beyond the conceptual - is really quite possible and achievable for most everyone. In an effort to move beyond the purely conceptual, then - it may seem an odd choice to reach for a book by Alan Watts. The title drew me in though - it seemed to me to promise just the sort of secrets I was hoping to unravel. "The Book" does start off in that vein, but Watts quickly pivots to consider a broader cultural perspective - the different ways of thinking viz East vs West. Watts's understanding of anatta is unquestionably deep, and one cannot help but feel the magnetic pull of this confident, pellucid guide in what is probably foggy and strange terrain for most Westerners. As a meditation practitioner, though, I came to feel ultimately that none of what Watts says here is necessary to experience or understand anatta - indeed it may complicate or even confuse the issue for some. Nonetheless I enjoy Watts and his brand of mind-blowing sophistry for it's sheer entertainment value. I especially liked his portrayal of how we habitually place artificial conceptual nets or grids over reality - obscuring what is naturally more "wiggly" - in order to measure or quantify various aspects. An analytical navigation of our shared universe necessarily requires slicing and dicing - mapping and reducing. Long/Lat lines on a map are a good example. We become so used to them we forget they are artificial- it's like wearing a visor with a HUD and forgetting you are wearing it, which causes you to think that the labels and measurements you see are part of the world around you rather than something you are projecting. This has been more of problem in the West, whereas the East, as Watts points out, was more of a follower to the West in term of building conceptual models of reality in more discrete terms. Advances in understanding of things at the quantum level seem to be bringing us back around again, however ("hey, atoms appear to be made of little wiggly things!"). If, like me, you are interested in a more personal and intimate reflection on not-self, impermanence, and suffering (the three marks of existence, in Buddhist parlance), then I would recommend Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve Woods

    This book is the work of a great man, a great scholar, a great thinker and he died of chronic alcoholism. I first became aware of Alan Watts when I was studying Chinese literature, for his discussions of the Tao te Ching. Pity I didn't pursue his wider work though I am not sure it would have had the same impact on me in my 20's so full of myself and on the slide into the same chronic alcoholism that killed him. In this little book he isolates the great hoax, the sense of separate, self determinin This book is the work of a great man, a great scholar, a great thinker and he died of chronic alcoholism. I first became aware of Alan Watts when I was studying Chinese literature, for his discussions of the Tao te Ching. Pity I didn't pursue his wider work though I am not sure it would have had the same impact on me in my 20's so full of myself and on the slide into the same chronic alcoholism that killed him. In this little book he isolates the great hoax, the sense of separate, self determining, self serving omnipotent and everlasting "I, me and mine." He describes tjhe intricacies of the hoax and the role played by our western societies, particularly the religions inherent in them in perpetuating the hoax and binding almost everyone, other than the heretics in the tabbo against seeing or exploring the hoax for what it is. Empty baseless and totally destructive to both theindividual and society at large. Praticing the hoax and inflicting it on other cultures as a "civilizing" influence has left the west, spreading a plague of spiritual and moral bankruptcy across the world. We have sought to convert the world into a huge bourgeoisie' all being extended the privelege of joining our special rat race buying appliances on time and a Tv to keep them running in the right direction. Given that Watts wrote the book in 1966 is has indeed proven a prescient pointer to the current state of collapse we now see around us, with no one having the slightest idea what to fdo simply becasue they no not who they are or who anybody else is. As he says man as a separate ego in a world of objects "is of course incapable of pleasure and contentment, let alone creative power. We drown in the sea of mediocrity we have created in the service of government and corporations. This book has been tremendously helpful to me in defining for myself "the self" which I need to surrender, in both terms of Buddhist practice and 12 step recovery.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jude Li-Berry

    This is basically another one of those ecstatic proclamations made by a western intellectual (read: grown up among Transcendent religions, the extreme form of which being christianity) upon 'discovering' eastern, more Immanence-based traditions. At the time, the book might have had certain claims to progress -- especially considering how, half a century later, the world's consciousness is still enslaved by colonialism and the industrial west -- yet the cause of the book is lost early-on, when on This is basically another one of those ecstatic proclamations made by a western intellectual (read: grown up among Transcendent religions, the extreme form of which being christianity) upon 'discovering' eastern, more Immanence-based traditions. At the time, the book might have had certain claims to progress -- especially considering how, half a century later, the world's consciousness is still enslaved by colonialism and the industrial west -- yet the cause of the book is lost early-on, when on page 7, Watts proposes "It is not that we may simply blow up the planet with nuclear bombs, strangle ourselves with overpopulation, destroy natural resources through poor conservation, or ruin the soil and its products with improperly understood chemicals and pesticides. Beyond all these is the possibility that civilization may be a huge technological success, but through methods that most people will find baffling, frightening, and disorienting -- because, for one reason alone, the methods will keep changing." In a fatal move mirroring Freud, whom he correctly criticized later in the book as being 'reductionistic', Watts has forsaken physical reality for the sake of a pretty, so-called 'psychological reality', albeit an attractive, exotic version of it. No, Mr Watts -- it IS simply that. Suck as much Immanence up your nostril as you'd like -- this time we need to FACE the reality. Just like saying we should all be 'color-blind' in the highly racist world we live in has the effect of denying the reality of racism & discrimination hence taking away our ability to deal with the ugly truth, using immanent ideologies as opium may provide momentary pleasure -- but is intellectual, AND physical suicide.

  24. 4 out of 5

    T.J. Brearton

    This book really started everything for me. I read it when I was nineteen (I'm thirty-nine now). I still can remember things from it very clearly. The idea that we are not separate egos walking around in bags of skin; the skin is permeable, and we're connected with everything. There is a confluence in this book of Native American tradition and the consciousness which expanded in the American 60s. If you've ever dropped acid, ate shrooms, been stoned, then this book will be very accessible. Even This book really started everything for me. I read it when I was nineteen (I'm thirty-nine now). I still can remember things from it very clearly. The idea that we are not separate egos walking around in bags of skin; the skin is permeable, and we're connected with everything. There is a confluence in this book of Native American tradition and the consciousness which expanded in the American 60s. If you've ever dropped acid, ate shrooms, been stoned, then this book will be very accessible. Even if not, it is the kind of straight-forward read, and Watts the thorough, articulate thinker, that anyone with an open mind can grasp it. It's the kind of critical thinking that doesn't diminish the object it evaluates, but illuminates it. This is a must for anyone who *knows* that there is so much more beyond the pale, so much more than our limited, frightened, collective, common-denominator thinking allows.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    I discovered Alan Watts several years ago and became a fan of his entertaining talks on eastern philosophy. Since that time, I've listened to countless hours of his recordings. Until now I have not read any of his many books. If you are someone interested in grasping the philosophical concepts of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or even Christianity, I highly recommend subscribing to the Alan Watts podcast via iTunes as a starting point. After reading this book, I can say he was a much better ora I discovered Alan Watts several years ago and became a fan of his entertaining talks on eastern philosophy. Since that time, I've listened to countless hours of his recordings. Until now I have not read any of his many books. If you are someone interested in grasping the philosophical concepts of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or even Christianity, I highly recommend subscribing to the Alan Watts podcast via iTunes as a starting point. After reading this book, I can say he was a much better orator than he was a writer.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Malum

    2.5 stars. I am a huge fan of Alan Watts' lectures, but this book was just too rambling for me, and I felt that the main point (that everything is connected...I think?) has been expounded on better by others. Reading this was like reading a "page a day" calendar of Alan Watts anecdotes. It just jumped from one idea to the next too rapidly for me to settle in and enjoy it overly much. 2.5 stars. I am a huge fan of Alan Watts' lectures, but this book was just too rambling for me, and I felt that the main point (that everything is connected...I think?) has been expounded on better by others. Reading this was like reading a "page a day" calendar of Alan Watts anecdotes. It just jumped from one idea to the next too rapidly for me to settle in and enjoy it overly much.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This 'Book" has been on my wish list for a very long time, but as much as I liked several of his monologues, until The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (see my review here, in which some monologues are mentioned/linked), I had never read an Alan Watts book. As I liked my first read, I finally found the time and the energy to take on another of his known works, which is a bit thinner than 'The Wisdom of Insecurity'. Only 159 pages long/short, the Book contains six chapters tha This 'Book" has been on my wish list for a very long time, but as much as I liked several of his monologues, until The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (see my review here, in which some monologues are mentioned/linked), I had never read an Alan Watts book. As I liked my first read, I finally found the time and the energy to take on another of his known works, which is a bit thinner than 'The Wisdom of Insecurity'. Only 159 pages long/short, the Book contains six chapters that are to be read in order, like a fiction novel. A few readers here wrote that Alan Watts repeated himself and thus made the book unnecessarily longer than it should have been. I'd like to counter that by stating that this "repetition" is actually needed to help understand the message he's trying to convey or the theme tackled in this or that chapter. As Mr Watts wrote in the preface, the book is a cross-fertilisation of Western science with an Eastern intuition, as it's based on Vedanta (Hinduism, Wikipedia), but brought with a modern and Western style (even if from 1966). The chapters are: 01) Inside Information 02) The Game of Black and White 03) How to Be a Genuine Fake 04) The World Is Your Body 05) So What? 06) IT The description or blurb is actually quite clear what the book is about. How you are connected with nature and everything else. He also writes about how we perceive the world, the cause-effect principle (or how that doesn't apply when seeing, through a slit, a cat pass by: the head is the cause of the tail and vice versa, because they are part of the same body, the same whole), how man is not a stand-alone element in the universe and how internal organs don't function on their own without depending on other organs, who on their own need other organs to function and create. And so on and so forth. In addition, Mr Watts shows how the influence of technology (à la Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) and our daily rat-race (in school and later when having a job) are disastrous for our well-being. Many of us go to work to make a living, not necessarily because we enjoy our jobs. We are promised paradise, but each time you have to work harder for new, fictitious reward which never is delivered. If... then..., but in many cases, this only works in computer programming. Of course, the trick, however hard it is, is to enjoy what you do (in your job, in your leisure time [example: don't play music for the sake of money, because that would be a wrong reason, going against personal, spiritual development], ...) and not let the system determine your course of action or your happiness. It's about sincerity. Then again, we live in a society in which we are told and taught to be free, to be a free individual, but on the other hand there are rules and laws that limit that freedom. Of course, without rules and laws (in general, because there are always ridiculous ones), everyone would do as he/she pleases and it would be total chaos. Oh, and let's not forget politicians (especially the far-right and far-left, though the centre also gets smacked), religions and alike that set up people against each other, as do other forms of groupings (biker clubs, football supporters, anything that unites like-minded people in a certain context). Not that it's wrong to come together because of shared hobbies or interests, because in itself that's very beneficial to one's well-being. What Alan Watts criticises is that in some of those groups, the feeling arises that they are better at "it" (whatever "it" is) than the other group(s), thus creating a black-and-white situation. When you're not part of the group, you're not equal, you're not on the same level as others. And so, as you're taken on an eye-opening journey about life, about yourself, about the world, ... your view on all of this will undergo changes. Less than baby-steps at first perhaps, but it might/may dawn on you how many things in life are fake, and that not everything is to be taken as serious as the news or politicians want you to believe. Obviously, all this is easier said than done, especially considering the situation you personally are currently experiencing. In other words, of course it's easier to say that life is great and that you can overcome various obstacles... if the environment and circumstances are so that you can and will succeed. I'd like to link a video by British actor Anthony Hopkins (uploaded on 17th May 2020 on his Facebook page): See here. Maybe his little video will help you, if and when needed, as Alan Watt's convictions can help, perhaps more through audio than via the written word. Long story short: another book very much worth checking out and keeping close to re-read, if only certain parts, now and then.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jesse D.

    This book has many quotes and analogies that I continue to use today when explaining my view of the universe and my relation to "God." I've given out at least 8 copies of this book to my friends, with never a bad review. I can't say enough good things about this book. As an aside. Alan Watts is one of the greatest spiritual teachers in my life. The lectures he left prior to his passing affirmed many of the beliefs I held, and extended these beliefs to levels I previously hadn't been able to see. This book has many quotes and analogies that I continue to use today when explaining my view of the universe and my relation to "God." I've given out at least 8 copies of this book to my friends, with never a bad review. I can't say enough good things about this book. As an aside. Alan Watts is one of the greatest spiritual teachers in my life. The lectures he left prior to his passing affirmed many of the beliefs I held, and extended these beliefs to levels I previously hadn't been able to see. While not all of his books are something I would recommend, but his lectures are absolutely otherworldly. RIP Mr. Watts, you were true visionary.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    Everyone should read this, everyone.... push past the eyerolling of a teenager and get them to read it, push past the contrariness of a politician and get them to read it, push past the busyness of the full time worker and get them to read it, push past the multitasking mind of a parent and get them to read it, push past the disdain and mocking by friends and get them... you get the gist, for herein lies the stuff of life...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erica Clou

    I think I got more from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley and from some modern similar books, Waking Up by Sam Harris, and The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. This is a good companion book though and it goes in its own very unique direction. Plus I always give bonus points for brevity.

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